It’s rare to find a jacket that does just about everything you want in any conditions, but it hasn’t stopped manufacturers from trying. Outerwear technology moves forward nearly as fast as smartphone tech and small robotic vacuums – and sometimes it’s as kitschy as a Roomba!
New for the 2015-16 ski season is the Helly Hansen (HH) Ridge Shell, a men’s jacket in the new ULLR line. There’s also a women’s version, Aurora. Both models are made with the Norwegian company’s latest and greatest fabric: Helly Tech Professional 3L, as in three layers of fabric. The trio of high-tech membranes is constructed just so to allow for the best breathability and waterproofing, or so HH says. The company also tapped a team of pro athletes to design and test the jacket in the alpine. They’re freeriders, the sort of people who head into the backcountry and stay there for hours on end — exactly the athletes you want creating a jacket. Now, this team of pros is never named, but I assume it includes freeskiers like Canadian Matt Elliott and American Jackie Paaso.
The company touts the Ridge as a winter ski shell to the core and, on most levels, it’s true. The fit, lines, colorways and features are all ready-made for a day on the slopes or even deep in the backcountry. But when it comes to function — including that fancy new fabric — I’ll argue it’s more of a three-season jacket for casual skiers and a four-season jacket for high-intensity athletes. It can handle snow, precipitation and sweat, sure, but when it comes to warmth and comfort on a frigid day over exposed slopes, this $500 jacket doesn’t stand alone. Just be ready to layer like you’ve never layered before.